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2012 Ford Focus Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Ford Focus was new.


Performance: 8.4

Reviewers are impressed with the 2012 Ford Focus' performance, but they also report that while the Focus is powerful, it’s not as thrilling as the Mazda3.

  • "And the enthusiasts may be disappointed if they do -- the transmission is a few points short of top marks. No steering-wheel paddle shifters are offered, and carpal tunnel syndrome is an inevitability for those repeatedly reaching for the awkwardly placed plus/minus button on the side of the shifter." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Even the sportier suspension was agreeable on the mostly healthy road surfaces in and around Los Angeles. Equipped with optional summer tires, the Focus Titanium sedan with 18-inch wheels crossed highway expansion joints with a faint thrumming sound that recalled earlier, lighter Audis a sensation I always associated with an exceptionally stiff body structure. Overall, the Focus is admirably quiet in all regards." -- Cars.com
  • "Unfortunately, if you want the Titanium Handling Package package that throws in 18-inch wheels, stickier summer tires, revised dampers, springs and sway bars, you're stuck opting up to the Titanium package. If we were looking for a quality commuter that's fun to sling down our favorite set of twisties, we'd opt for an SE with the five-speed manual and spend the money saved on a new set of tires." -- Autoblog
  • "The powertrain features a totally new 2.0-liter inline four cylinder engine with direct-injection. Ford claims it to be one of the most advanced non-turbocharged engines they have built. On the drive dynamics side of the equation, Torque Vectoring is now a standard part of the system, allowing the car to mimic the feel and assists received from a limited slip differential, but in this case, using the brakes to accomplish that same feat. The result is minimized understeer and maximized grip and steering." -- Left Lane News

Acceleration and Power

The 2012 Ford Focus has outstanding handling, but reviewers weren’t as impressed with its power, and give it mixed reviews. On the whole, test drivers report that the 2012 Focus is plenty powerful, but not as impressive as the Mazda3. The Focus has three transmission options: a basic five-speed manual that’s standard on the S and SE trims, a six-speed PowerShift, Ford’s special name for the dual-clutch automatic transmission that is optional on the S and SE trims, and Select Shift, the manual option that comes with the SEL and Titanium trims and is optional on the SE trim. You can match either transmission to one of two engine options: a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 140 horsepower or a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder partial zero-emissions vehicle that makes 159 horsepower.

According the the EPA, the Focus with a Super Fuel-Efficient Package will get 28/40 mpg city/highway. A similarly equipped Ford Fiesta has the same ratings. Regular Focus models will get 28/38 mpg city/highway with a six-speed automatic transmission, which is still very good for the class.

  • "Amazingly, the only automatic is an expensive, dry dual-clutch six-speed. Ford predicts 95 percent of buyers will opt for this box, so we’re happy to report that it is simply terrific, grabbing gears with disciplined seamlessness and right-now urgency, fouled only by some lazy part-throttle upshifts to sixth. Too bad the self-shifting function is largely spoiled by a minuscule up/down gear-toggling switch affixed leech-like to the gear levers neck. Genuine paddles or a separate fore/aft gate should be mandatory with any dual-clutch transmission." -- Car and Driver
  • "Where the Focus is likely to satisfy more than impress is in acceleration. We found the subcompact Fiesta to be modestly powered at best, with the six-speed PowerShift automatic preferable over the five-speed manual. The Focus is a similar story, though its power is more satisfying than the Fiesta's." -- Cars.com
  • "Pushed into a corner, the Focus reveals its tightly-tuned, European-derived suspension. It isn’t as imminently fun to drive as, say, a Mazda Mazda3, but it is definitely tossable and more than a step above the class norm. Steering is a bit vague at times and generally overboosted, but miles ahead of its predecessor regardless of continent." -- Left Lane News
  • "At this point, you're probably thinking that a dual-clutch transmission makes perfect sense on a sport model. You'd be right, only Ford has programmed this cog box to handle shifts just like a standard automatic. While you can technically coax the transmission into a gear of your own choosing by clicking the tiny rocker button on top of the shift lever, gear swaps are slow and soft. If you're really looking to cover some ground with a vengeance, you're better off opting for the manual 'box. That's not to say that the dual-clutch transmission is lackluster for fielding commuting duty by any means. On the street, the shifts are perfectly smooth, and while the transmission tends to hold gears a bit longer before down shifting than we'd like, the truth is that this piece is a huge improvement over the old automatic." -- Autoblog
  • "EPA fuel economy estimates haven't yet been finalized, but Ford expects that a special eco version of the sedan will achieve 40 mpg on the highway. Regular Focus models should be slightly behind that, at perhaps 28 city, 38 highway. The manual, lacking a sixth gear, should trail slightly behind that. These numbers trail behind the new Hyundai Elantra, which is expected to receive 40 mpg highway from all model variants." -- Automobile Magazine

Handling and Braking

When automotive journalists learned that the 2012 Ford Focus comes with torque vectoring control, a system that increases vehicle stability by adding brake force to the wheels on one side during turns, they couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel. Not only is torque vectoring a first for affordable small cars, but it’s also a feature that driving enthusiasts value. Did the Focus meet reviewers’ high expectations? Definitely. They report that steering is accurate, sharp and sporty.

  • "So it's the real deal, replete with the fully independent rear suspension, and that, of course, means it's the handler of the class.” -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Ford’s engineers confessed that the hatchback is torsionally stiffer than the sedan, a trait they claim lends it sharper handling, with a slightly clearer sense of straight ahead. We thought so, too." -- Car and Driver
  • "It was on canyon roads that the Focus showed its finest attribute: handling. I can't say I'm surprised, because the previous-generation Focus' dynamics were underrated or perhaps just underreported. The car flew under the radar because it was so poised and natural in the twisties that you didn't realize how good it was unless you looked at the speedometer. The 2012 Focus takes it up a notch. More like three notches, actually. But I don't want to downplay the capabilities of the lower trim levels, such as the Focus SE hatchback with 16-inch all-season tires. It, too, exhibited surprising control and athleticism, eager to dive into corners and then claw its way back out. Ford attributes this in part to a standard torque-vectoring feature that uses the traction control to brake the inside wheel when accelerating out of a turn, allowing the power to drive the outside wheel and maintain a tighter line." -- Cars.com

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